Silje Nes recorded Opticks in the same home studio in which she made the collection of demos that became her debut album Ames Room, but the Norwegian’s second album opens a new world of possibilities. Opticks manages to be more cohesive and polished, drawing on Nes’ growing experience as a composer and producer without sacrificing the delicacy that made Ames Room so charming. And though these tracks are delicate, they’re far from passive -- if anything, Nes is more versatile and flexible on songs like the album-opener “The Grass Harp,” where the drums and artfully layered sounds pump the melody through the song like blood through an artery. Opticks’ most fully fleshed-out tracks are its most exciting, showing that Nes can sustain a mood as deftly as she creates them. “Silver > Blue” spins an eerie tale of love and control over hypnotic hints of flute and glockenspiel; “The Card House” casts a mischievous haze; and “Levitation” builds into a gently percolating groove before floating out on a cloud of guitar shimmer. Of course, there are just as many Ames Room-style tracks with one or two-word titles that reflect just how vignette-like they are (“Crystals,” “Branches,” “Hello Luminance”), but even Opticks’ most fragile confections reflect Nes’ growth. She emphasizes sound and atmosphere over her voice, covering herself with even more cloudy and intricate sounds on pieces such as “Rewind,” which unfolds and shifts in a bewitching way closer to sound art than a pop song. Regardless of the tack she takes, Nes’ music has the vulnerable freshness of winter thawing into spring -- particularly on the lovely album-closer “Ruby Red” -- and Opticks puts her in the very sweet spot between innocence and expertise.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares